Destroyer of Light, Jennifer Marie Brissett (Tor 978-1-250-26865-5, $25.99, 304pp, hc) October 2021.
Jennifer Marie Brissett’s Destroyer of Light is a book that sneaks up on you. If you can make it through the disorienting (somewhat intentionally because there is a lot of world building to do) first couple dozen pages, the reward is vast. Brissett has built a story that the 21st century needs, while never forgetting its roots in the Afrofuturism of a previous generation.
I’m going to drop a trigger warning for sexual violence in right here. Not because my review will contain any, but because this book definitely does. If this is a subject you’d rather not be involved with right now for whatever reason, know that this is not the title you should pick up.
Four hundred years ago, humans were driven from the Earth by the krestge, an alien population that exists in more than three dimensions. Ships were launched and the people on them were genetically modified while in cold sleep. Once they made planetfall, they discovered how these changes gave each person a special talent suited for their new life. Most were straightforward, like the ability to quicken seeds. But a few made less sense, like that given to Cora, a young girl.
To add to the dynamic, the resources on the ships were to be shared equally. As you’d expect, they weren’t. One region has most of the technology, one grows most of the food, and one is a frozen frontier where might most definitely makes right.
As you’d anticipate, the plot involves Cora learning about what she can do and why it is important to the planet’s future. What makes Destroyer of Light such compelling reading is all of the other layers Brissett adds. This is a book about monsters and saviors – and how thin the line can be between the two. It’s about power and colonialism; mother and daughters; the cost of safety. It’s about Blackness and blackness and what both might look like under different circumstances.
Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.
This review and more like it in the October 2021 issue of Locus.
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